Skip to Content
Serving Iowa Families Statewide

Can Your Child Pick Which Parent to Live With?

Mother and daughter

A divorce can be a difficult and uncertain time for couples deciding to split. There are many decisions to be made during the divorce process, and for parents, one of the most important ones is their child’s custody arrangement. For parents who amicably split, this issue can be easy to resolve, but for other couples, it can turn into a battle.

When parents cannot agree on child custody and visitation, they will have to take the matter to an Iowa court, where a judge will decide on what they think will be in the best interest of the child. While the judge will consider many different factors when they determine custody, they must also think about the child’s preference as well.

Factors That Determine Custody

In Iowa, the judge will establish a custody arrangement that is in the “best interest of the child.” According to Iowa laws, this means “the opportunity for maximum continuous physical and emotional contact possible with both parents, unless direct physical or significant emotional harm to the child may result from this contact.”

There are several factors the court will consider when determining what is in the child’s best interest, including:

  • Whether each parent would be a suitable custodian for the child

  • Whether the child will be negatively impacted due to the lack of contact and attention from both parents

  • Whether the parents can effectively communicate with each other regarding the child’s needs

  • Whether both parents have been actively caring for the child before and since their separation

  • Whether each parent can support the other parent’s relationship with the child

  • Whether one or both parents are opposed to joint custody

  • The geographic proximity of the parents

  • Whether the safety of the child or one parent will be in danger if joint custody is awarded

  • If there is a history of domestic abuse

  • The child’s wishes

The Child’s Custodial Preference

Iowa does consider the child’s preference for custody. Iowa Code 598.41 states explicitly that they will consider “whether the custody arrangement is in accord with the child’s wishes or whether the child has strong opposition, taking into consideration the child’s age and maturity.”

While there is not a required age the child must be to state their preference, the younger the child is, the less likely it is that the court will consider their wishes. On the other hand, a teenager’s opinion can hold more weight because they are mature enough to understand the complexity of this decision.

Although the judge does consider the child’s preference, they are not required to enforce the child’s preference. It is simply just another factor they will look at. Ultimately, it is up to the judge’s discretion when they make their decision, and that will always be what they deem is in the child’s best interest.

If you think your child’s preference might be a potential factor in your case, or if you have other questions regarding Iowa’s child preference laws, don’t hesitate to contact our experienced Des Moines attorneys today. Hope Law Firm is here to help you during this confusing time.

Contact us online or by calling us at (515) 305-2772 to schedule your consultation.